Rating: T for language.
Summary: Brian and Bender get into a little trouble at Vernon’s expense.
Pairing: hints of Andy/Allison and John/Claire
Characters: John and Brian
Some Things Never Change
“Are you sure we’re not going to get in trouble?”
Bender ignored the question and held out his left hand. “Give me the hanger.”
Brian glanced down at the large brown grocery bag at his feet and reached forward to grab the metal coat hanger. Bender accepted it without saying thank you.
“So, uh…what exactly are you doing?”
“I told you already,” Bender replied curtly as he began twisting the hanger into shape.
“Yeah, I know, but I didn’t really understand. I mean, you said something about a brake, uh, brake switch, but I--”
“Brake light switch,” Bender interjected, never looking up from the hanger.
Brian nodded. “Right. Brake light switch. I didn’t realize there was a difference. I don’t know much about cars. Whenever I have a problem with mine, I just take it into the shop and--oh, my God, what are you doing?”
Bender didn’t look up from the car window or from the hanger in his hands. “What the hell does it look like I’m doing?”
“It looks like you’re breaking into the car!”
Bender stopped and turned around to face him. “How did you think we were going to get in, Brainiac?”
Brian shook his head. “I don’t know. I thought the brake switch--”
“Brake light switch.”
“--the brake light switch was on the outside of the car.”
Bender blinked. “The outside of the car?”
Brian could feel himself blushing and was grateful for the darkness. “Yeah.”
Bender shook his head. “Just stop talking and let me concentrate, alright?” Without waiting for Brian to respond, he turned back towards the car and continued working.
Brian glanced across the parking lot at the school gymnasium, where a sign reading “Ten Year Reunion” had been hung over the doorway. There had been two signs earlier in the evening, but the other had fallen off and was lying in a rumpled pile on the ground next to the door. Someone had tied a bundle of balloons to the bike rack next to the entrance, and every once in a while a breeze would pick up, sending the balloons swaying back and forth, their shadows dancing on the pavement below.
After a few seconds, Brian heard a small click and glanced back just in time to see Bender opening the driver’s side door.
“Oh, god,” said Brian. “What if he comes out and sees us doing this?”
“Why do you think I asked you to come?” Bender responded, squatting on the pavement next to the vehicle.
Brian’s eyes widened. “You’re going to let me take the blame?”
Bender rolled his eyes. “No, you idiot. You’re the lookout.” He swore under his breath, then held out his right hand. “Just give me the flashlight.”
Brian hesitated for only a moment before he bent forward and grabbed the flashlight from the brown sack. He placed it in Bender’s outstretched hand and watched him aim it under the steering column, flicking the beam of light back and forth across the dash.
“Screwdriver,” said Bender, holding out his hand again.
Brian rummaged around in the bag again and located a tiny red screwdriver. He pressed it into Bender’s palm and leaned forward to get a better look at Bender’s work. Bender shifted forward, blocking Brian’s view. Brian just sighed and looked back towards the school, glancing nervously at the door leading to the gymnasium.
“So, uh, have you ever done this before?” he asked.
“Once or twice,” came the muffled reply.
Brian nodded. “Did it work?”
“Would I be doing it again if it didn’t?”
Brian paused for a moment before speaking again. “What exactly is it going to do?”
Brian nodded. “When?”
“I don’t know. Whenever he leaves.” Bender held out his hand again. “Pliers.”
Brian grabbed the pliers from the bag and handed them to Bender, who went back to work. “Do you think he’s going to be mad?” Brian asked.
Brian felt his heart rate speeding up. “So, can we get arrested for this? Is this, like, a felony or something? Because I can’t--”
“Hey, dork?” Bender turned around to face him.
Brian blinked. “Yeah?”
Brian sighed. “Sorry,” he muttered.
Bender nodded and turned back towards the car. Brian glanced back at the gymnasium door, then over at the balloons tied to the bike rack. He watched them sway back and forth, back and forth, as the wind howled against the brick building.
Suddenly, the gymnasium door burst open, and a few notes from Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around” spilled out, accompanied by a large, misshapen figure that stumbled out onto the pavement. Instinctively, Brian ducked down, nearly slamming his head into the side of the door.
“Someone’s coming!” he hissed at Bender.
Bender straightened up and glanced out of the passenger side window, where he had a clear view of the gymnasium. After a moment he returned to his original position in front of the dashboard, his mouth turned up in an almost imperceptible smile.
“Who is it?” Brian whispered. When Bender didn’t answer, he stood slowly and peeked over the top of the car. The figure was actually two figures that were hanging onto one another so tightly that they looked like one person. They stumbled out into the parking lot and pressed themselves against a bright red sports car a few rows over.
Brian ducked his head into the vehicle. “That’s Kathy Martin!” he exclaimed.
“I know,” Bender responded, never looking up from the steering column.
“And Greg Landis!”
“I know,” Bender repeated.
Brian peeked over the top of the car again and shook his head. “I never would have thought that…wasn’t he the homecoming king?”
Brian shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s just…” He paused. “Never mind.”
Bender didn’t respond. Brian kept his eyes focused on the gymnasium door, trying to avoid looking over at the amorous couple that was still pushed up against the side of the sports car.
After a few minutes, Bender straightened up and closed the car door. “Finished.”
Brian cupped his hands against the window so that he could see inside. “What did you do?”
Bender grabbed Brian’s arm and pulled him away from the car, steering him towards the gymnasium. “I’ve already told you.”
“Well, explain it again.”
Bender sighed. “You’ll get to see it firsthand in a few minutes.” He led Brian over to the curb, not far from the entrance to the gymnasium, and sat down. Brian followed his lead and glanced out over the parking lot. They had a clear view of the car, but a huge hedge separated them from the door to the gymnasium, effectively hiding them from view.
They had been sitting in silence for about five minutes before Brian finally spoke. “So, uh, what are we waiting for?”
Bender glanced over at him. “We’re waiting for him to come outside and start the car.”
Brian nodded. “And then?”
Bender shook his head. “I already told you. You’ll see.”
“Are we going to sit here and watch him?”
Brian took a deep breath. “Is he going to know it was us? What if he looks over and sees us? He’ll know then, right?”
Bender shrugged. “Maybe. Who cares if he does?”
Brian scoffed. “I care! I don’t want to get in trouble!”
Even in the darkness, Brian could see Bender roll his eyes. “Are you still worried about that? What’s he going to do, call your mom?”
Brian let out a deep breath. “Maybe,” he muttered.
Bender shook his head. “Just relax.”
Brian turned away and looked back at the small black car that was parked not thirty feet away. He reached up and started rubbing a hand against his chest to smooth away the pressure that was building. An old habit, learned after eighteen years of living under his mother’s roof. Sometimes he wondered if it was ever going to go away.
“You having a heart attack?”
Brian glanced over at Bender, who was watching him closely.
Brian shook his head. “No, I’m fine.”
Bender reached into the pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a small plastic lighter. “You want one?”
Brian paused uncertainly. “A heart attack?” he asked, slightly bewildered.
Bender rolled his eyes. “A cigarette, dumb ass.”
“Oh.” Brian shook his head. “No, thanks.”
Bender lit his stick and stuffed the lighter and the rest of the pack back into his pocket. He took a drag and let his hand rest against his knee.
Brian cleared his throat. “So, uh, what have you been up to?” he asked.
Bender didn’t look up. “Nothing exciting,” he said cryptically.
“Oh,” Brian responded, disappointed.
Bender looked over at him, frowning slightly. “What, is this the part where we gush over our jobs and children and talk about our 401K?”
Brian blinked. “Oh, I don’t have any children…or a 401K.”
Bender stared at him for a moment, then let out a soft chuckle and shook his head. “No?”
Brian shook his head. “No, I don’t.”
Bender nodded. “I figured you’d be workin’ for NASA or something.”
Brian shook his head. “No, I don’t have a job. I mean, I did, but then I quit because…well, it’s kind of complicated. I wanted to do something with computers, because they’re the future, you know? Like, I think there’s so much we can do with them, and there are so many opportunities for advancement. I…” He trailed off, glancing over at Bender, who was watching him with an unreadable expression on his face. “Sorry,” he muttered. “I just--”
“Why’d you quit your job?” Bender asked.
Brian sighed. “I don’t know. I just didn’t feel like it was where I should be, you know?”
Bender narrowed his eyes, but didn’t say anything.
“I just wanted to do something I loved, and I knew that wasn’t it.” Brian sighed. “I have a friend that wants to start his own software company. He was looking for a partner, but…”
Brian shrugged. “I don’t know. I want to, but there’s a lot to think about.”
Bender blew out a puff of smoke. “What’s there to think about? You either want it or you don’t.”
Brian paused thoughtfully. “Yeah,” he said finally. “I guess.”
A couple of minutes passed, and neither of them said anything. Bender finished off his cigarette and pulled out another one. Brian looked up at the night sky, covered in millions of twinkling stars millions of light years away from earth. Sometimes he felt so small.
After a moment, Brian glanced back over at Bender, who was staring out over the parking lot, lost in thought. “So, what about you?” he asked.
Bender glanced up. “What about me?”
“Well, what are you doing? I mean…” Brian paused. “Where are you working?”
Bender flicked the ash from his cigarette onto the curb. “Who says I’m working?”
Brian considered this for a moment. “I don’t know. I guess I just thought…”
“You think too much,” Bender told him.
Brian nodded. “Yeah, probably.” He paused. “Are you still living in Shermer?”
Bender nodded. “Yep.”
Once again, the two of them became silent. Brian glanced over his shoulder, where he could see the gymnasium door just behind a group of shrubs to his left. After a moment, he looked back at Bender. “Andy and Allison came together,” he said quietly.
Bender nodded curtly. “Yeah, I saw ‘em.”
“They seem happy,” Brian offered tentatively.
Bender grunted, but didn’t say anything else.
Brian turned back so that he was facing the parking lot again. “Have you seen Claire yet?”
Bender shook his head. “Nope.”
Brian paused. “I saw her earlier.”
“She was alone.”
“Is that so?”
Brian rolled his eyes. “You should go talk to her or something.”
Bender scoffed and took another drag on his cigarette. “Yeah, maybe.”
Brian opened his mouth to say something else, then thought better of it and closed it again. He sighed and looked over to his left, where he could see the shadows of the balloons waving against the dark concrete. He watched them in silence as Bender smoked his cigarette.
After a couple of minutes, he looked back at Bender, who was down to the stub of his cigarette. “Hey, Bender?”
Bender glanced up. “What?”
“Why’d you ask me to help you?”
Bender shrugged. “It’s no fun by yourself.”
“Yeah, but…” He cleared his throat. “I was just surprised that you talked to me, you know? I was surprised that you asked.”
Bender frowned. “I asked you to pull a prank, not go to the fucking prom. Stop being such a homo.”
Brian felt his face flaming. “I didn’t mean--”
“Yeah, I know what you meant,” Bender said roughly.
Brian hesitated, then nodded, allowing himself a slow smile. “Yeah.”
Bender stubbed his cigarette out on the concrete with the tip of his boot. Just then, the door to the gymnasium burst open, this time letting “Mr. Jones” by The Counting Crows pour out into the night air. Brian leaned back to get a better view of the doorway, then leaned forward again, heart beating rapidly.
“It’s Vernon,” he whispered to Bender.
Bender nodded. On the other side of the shrub, Brian could hear the principal murmuring to himself about how “some things never change”. Apparently he had just spotted Kathy and Greg, who were still making out against the red sports car.
“Horny little bastards,” he muttered, stepping out into the parking lot. He passed not ten feet away from where Brian and Bender were sitting by the curb, hidden by the shrub and the darkness. Brian glanced over at Bender, but Bender’s gaze was locked on Vernon, who was making his way out to the small black car they’d broken into just minutes before.
“What’s going to happen?” Brian asked tentatively as Vernon unlocked the door and slid into the driver’s seat.
“Just watch,” said Bender.
Brian glanced back at Vernon’s car. The headlights flickered on, and the engine rumbled to life. Brian waited, his heart beating so loudly that he could hear the blood pounding in his head. Nothing happened.
And then the honking started.
Brian jumped a few inches off of the curb, scared out of his mind. The honking stopped almost immediately, then started up again. This happened a couple of times--each time the horn sounding for only half of an instant--before Brian glanced over at Bender, who was watching the car with an amused smirk on his face.
“What did you do?” Brian asked.
Bender grinned. “I connected the brake light switch to the horn relay.”
Brian paused. “What does that mean?”
Another honk, then silence. Bender kept smiling. “It means that whenever he hits the brake, his horn goes off.”
Brian’s eyes widened. “Seriously?” He started laughing. “That’s so cool!”
Bender didn’t say anything, but the smirk on his face suggested that he agreed. After another honk, this one lasting a good three or four seconds, then the car door flew open and Vernon stepped out of the car.
“Stupid, fucking--” He kicked the side of the car. “What the hell--”
Bender burst out laughing. Brian’s eyes widened, and he glanced across the parking lot at Vernon, who had heard the noise and was looking straight at them. He slammed the driver’s side door and started marching across the parking lot.
Brian nudged Bender with his elbow. “He saw us! Let’s go!”
Bender just shook his head and stood up from the curb. Before either of the boys could get much further, Vernon was standing in front of them, his face red with anger. “Bender, is that you?” he demanded.
Bender smiled pleasantly. “Mr. Vernon! It’s so nice to see you again. How are you, sir?”
“Screw that, Bender!” the principal yelled. “What the hell did you do to my car?”
Bender frowned and glanced over at Vernon’s car, which was still sitting in the middle of the parking lot with the lights on. “What do you mean, sir?”
Vernon narrowed his eyes. “Don’t play dumb. I saw you laughing.”
Bender shook his head. “I don’t know what you mean, sir. Brian and I were just sitting here, catching up on old times.”
Vernon shook his head. “No, it was you. I know it was. What did you do to my horn?”
“Your horn?” Bender frowned thoughtfully. “Are you having car trouble, sir?”
Vernon’s nostrils flared. “You know good and well that I am!”
Bender nodded understandingly and reached into his jacket pocket. He pulled out a wallet, rummaged around inside, and removed a small business card from the interior. “Here you go.”
Vernon grabbed the card from his hand. “What the hell is this?”
“It’s my business card, sir.” Bender tucked the wallet back into his jacket. “For the auto garage across town.”
Vernon hesitated. “What does--”
“I’d be happy to take a look at the car for you, if you’re having trouble with it. I’d even give you a discount.”
Vernon looked utterly confused. “Discount? What are you talking about? What did you do to my car?”
Bender ignored the question. “Just stop by some time. I’ll have my men take a look at it, and we’ll get it fixed for you.”
Bender smiled triumphantly. “Yes, sir. I own the garage. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” He nodded politely in Vernon’s direction and started walking towards the entrance to the gymnasium.
Brian ran to catch up. “You own that garage?” he asked.
“Last time I checked.”
Brian shook his head. “I thought you weren’t working…”
“You think too much.” Bender stopped at the door and kicked a large banner out of the way. It read, “Welcome Back, Class of 1985”.
Brian turned away from the doorway and glanced back at Vernon, who was still staring confusedly at the business card in his hand. Then he looked over at Bender, who was watching him, eyebrow cocked expectantly. “You comin’?” he asked.
Brian nodded. “Yeah.”
Bender smirked. “Good, because about an hour ago I spiked the punch, and I want to make sure that I get some before it’s all gone.”